ALBANY — When it comes to getting a non-custodial parent to come up with court-ordered child support payments the usual option was to put the offender in jail. There are two big drawbacks to this strategy — a non-compliant parent can’t pay child support while behind bars and counties are burdened with the additional cost of keeping non-violent offenders locked up.
“We’ve discovered that incarceration is the least compelling reason for a person to pay child support,” Dougherty County Chief Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette told the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County. “Not all of these guys are deadbeat dads, there are often other obstacles involved.
“People who owe child support need jobs. Jail doesn’t really solve the problem.”
So Dougherty County launched the Parental Accountability Court program (PAC) while debuted in September of last year.
According to PAC Coordinator Angela Jackson the program seeks to remove the underlying issues that cause non-custodial parents to become chronic non-payers of child support. Through judicial oversight, Parental Accountability Court assists to transition non-custodial parents with barriers to self-sufficiency through parent accountability, employment and education.
Services offered through Parental Accountability Court include mental health, substance abuse treatment, job assistance and placement, short term training, coaching and mentoring, educational services, and Georgia Work Ready as an alternative to incarceration.
“We are not enforcement, we are an outreach program,” Jackson said. “We currently have 11 men in the program and can take in as many as 30. Right now we are keep the numbers small so we can keep a closer eye on our clients and provide better service.”
Lockette said the program offers literacy services, help with getting a GED, finding apprenticeship programs, clothing assistance and sometimes with transportation by offering a bus pass.
In addition to the PAC program, the state Division of Child Support Services has established other outreach programs such as Child Access and Visitation, a Fatherhood programs and Community Outreach Council
To learn more about the programs, contact Jackson at 229-430-5121.